Edmonton Catholic High School System

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Edmonton Catholic High School System

Executive summary

Starting with individual school engagements and moving to an ongoing system-wide project, the Edmonton Catholic Schools worked with connect2learning to support the learning of all students and raise achievement scores on provincial tests.

Edmonton Catholic Schools, with a mission to serve all students, wanted to implement a system that could work for all, and produce dramatic results.

This case illustrates the importance of bringing all educators – teachers and leaders – to the table in order to bring alignment of intent and action in order to make change a sustainable reality.

The opportunity

The Edmonton Catholic Schools wanted to improve diploma exam scores and graduation rates.

However, the pressure to perform on exams precluded measures seen as radical.

They needed an initiative that all educators and schools could all rally around; one that would produce rapid change. The change had to be championed both top-down and bottom-up. And it needed to go beyond students – educators needed to be supported through change that involved everything from coaching, changing instruction, collecting evidence of learning through to the structure of grades and report cards!

The commitment

We had been working with some of the schools in the Edmonton Catholic Schools system and had established a good rapport based on great results as well as an easy-to-champion common sense approach to assessment for learning.

The opportunity to help the entire System was much appreciated. It is gratifying to be invited to provide support across the spectrum – from leaders to educators.

The linchpin in seizing this opportunity and breaking down resistance? The research-based promise as well as past experience of great results class by class and school by school that assessment for learning could improve the education experience, student learning and provincial test results for all students.

The journey

An international study showed that assessment for learning had a more powerful impact on student learning and achievement than any other educational innovation studied up to that point. Research showed it was more effective than score-based assessment. This study was published immediately prior to the project launch.

Happily, this drew champions from across the system. School teams, including principals, were supported to attend sessions with their teacher teams over a three-year period. And teams held to their commitment to both attend the system wide sessions and to support their colleagues to implement the work in classrooms with students. School teams also agreed to report back to the district-wide group on the effectiveness of the practical strategies they learned about and implemented in classrooms and schools across this diverse school system.

Initial results were impressive – within the three-year project Edmonton Catholic Schools increased their provincial scores by more than 11%. As the project and focus continued, they exceeded 25 of 26 provincial standards. What’s more, assessment for learning methodologies were implemented by more and more teachers in support of increasingly diverse learners.

The support for assessment in the service of learning continued way beyond the initial three-year project. 

The learnings

  • Change has to be bottom-up as well as top-down to support necessary collaboration.
  • Assessment for learning must be core to teaching practice, not a side project.
  • Teachers and leaders need to participate together and be accountable for implementing and actions to support their unique school community.
  • Putting an entire school system on the same track – to use assessment in the service of learning – is a marathon because everything is constantly changing.
  • Rapid, positive results break down resistance.

Special thanks

connect2learning is privileged to work alongside the educators of the Edmonton Catholic Schools as they support the learning of all students. 

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